Jane Fonda: Trump is a Disaster on Climate Change. But We Can't Let Gavin Newsom Off the Hook | Opinion

This is not the end. Yes, the sky has been blood red in California at noon. Yes, children can't breathe the black air in Oregon. Yes, heavy clouds are forming over warming seas off the coasts of Louisiana, and, yes, an uncontrolled virus has killed nearly 200,000 people across the country. But, this is not the end. With the people we have in power right now, this is, tragically, just the beginning.

The climate crisis has fueled this summer's fires in California and across the American West. It has fueled the unprecedented hurricanes in the Southeast, the flooding in the Midwest, and the heat waves in the Arctic. These multiple, intersecting crises are happening right now because over the past century and a half 100 companies have produced the vast majority of the carbon pollution that has locked the planet onto this path of destruction. Companies like Exxon, Chevron, Shell, and BP spent decades sowing doubt about the science of climate change, even though they knew it was real and that they were fueling it. Greedy executives made billions of dollars burning fossil fuels knowing very well it would lead to this very global catastrophe—not to mention the unjust impacts of oil spills, poor air quality, and the poisoning of stolen lands. These oil companies have also fiercely lobbied for subsidies globally, distorting the cost of dirty energy and their role in blocking renewable, community-based energy solutions.

This is the climate crisis. It's here, it's real, and it's getting worse.

Despite all the present evidence that the path we're on is unsustainable, the CEOs of the fossil fuel companies responsible—as well as the politicians who refuse to confront them—have no plans to change. In fact, the current president not only has no plans to stop this climate crisis, he went yesterday into wildfire-ravaged California and openly defied the self-evident science of climate change all around him. The Trump administration has been so consistently bad on climate that he has an "F" on the Greenpeace Climate 2020 scorecard, the only candidate in the field to earn zero out of a possible 100 points. And he is the leader of a party that marches in lockstep behind him, no matter what public "concerns" they might mumble when pressed.

But the problem isn't just Trump and his Republicans. It's also, unfortunately, key Democratic politicians, like California Governor Gavin Newsom. While Newsom has been quick to vow both on national news and on Twitter to confront the growing climate emergency, he has quietly been approving more and more new oil and gas permits here in California: literally fueling the fire that is contributing to larger and faster blazes.

Despite promising a managed decline of fossil fuels, Governor Newsom has issued vastly more permits for new oil and gas wells in the state in the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year. And he's not forcing the fossil fuel companies to put up the money needed to clean up the 107,000 oil and gas wells in California so taxpayers don't have to foot the bill.

In the middle of this crisis, there is no longer a material difference between climate deniers and climate delayers. As Greta Thunberg says, our house is on fire. But instead of taking action to stop it, Donald Trump, the GOP, and yes, even Governor Newsom, are fanning the flames. There won't be a livable future under this kind of leadership.

What makes true leaders is how they handle a crisis. We learned this week that Trump knew in February the coronavirus's potential for death and devastation, but instead of listening to the scientists, warning the country, and making plans to mitigate the crisis, he made the situation worse. He goaded armed militias to force states with actual plans to re-open. He threatened to take away funding for schools that put kids' safety first. He blamed China and acted like the whole thing was a hoax. Meanwhile, his party pushed a plan that would profit the billionaire class and force everyone else to suffer with the bare minimum. We know from the Woodward tapes that he listened to the science for himself, but he denied it to the public. This is exactly what fossil fuel companies and their politicians have done with the climate crisis for decades. That's exactly what Trump did today in California.

Trump and his party know the climate crisis, just like the coronavirus crisis, is real. He's building sea walls to protect his golf courses from rising seas. He knows, but he and his GOP have denied, disinformed, and delayed in order to profit. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that if we hope to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis we have little more than a decade to cut fossil fuel emissions in half and then gradually phase them out entirely. Once this happens, we must rapidly transition to renewable energy by mid-century. But just like with the coronavirus crisis, the companies and politicians in charge simply don't care about the consequences of the climate crisis for you.

This week has made it clear once again that Trump and his party have no business being in power during a crisis. They have got to go. But it's not enough just to get the Trump GOP out of power. We also have to get politicians like Gavin Newsom—and Joe Biden—to show us that they know the stakes in this crisis. They still have a chance to be the leaders these times demand.

Climate scientists warn that the only way to address the climate emergency is to stop fossil fuel companies from spewing unregulated carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We know now Gavin Newsom isn't going to do it on his own. We have to push him. We have to use our voices to demand politicians stand up to the fossil fuel industry. We have to vote. And we have to get our friends, neighbors, and our families to vote for climate champions. Find out if your representatives and candidates take money from the fossil fuel industry and hold them accountable.

By giving your vote and your campaign contributions—or taking them elsewhere— you can send a message: no more blood red skies, no more choking air, no more once-in-a-century storms, no more billionaires profiting off of your suffering, no more leaders beholden to the fossil fuel industry. No more climate crisis.

It's true, this is not the end. But if we start right now, we can make this the beginning—not of a crisis, but of a future worth fighting for.

Jane Fonda is an Academy Award-winning actress, producer, activist and the founder of Fire Drill Fridays, a national movement to protest government inaction on climate change in partnership with Greenpeace USA. Last week, Fonda released her latest book, What Can I Do? My Path From Climate Despair to Action.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.